8/13/08 at PNC Park

My girlfriend Jona attended this game…


…and wandered around the stadium with me before the gates opened.
There was a lot to see. Check out the four-part pic below. Starting on
the top left and going clockwise, you can see 1) the view of PNC Park from the middle of the bridge, 2) the steps leading down to the water, 3) kayaks for rent, and 4) the promenade behind the right field edge of the stadium (where balls hardly ever land):


Jona and I had lots of time to kill (which was the point), so we had to
find various ways to spend it. In the four-part pic below…1) we’re posing with the home plate gate in the background, 2) I’m trying to look mean after Jona tied a bandana around my head in the team store, 3) I’m being overwhelmed by gravitational force, and 4) Jona is inspecting the Willie Stargell statue (no disrespect intended):


Speaking of the home plate gate, here’s a closer look:


Nothing special, right? Well, here’s an even closer look:


I know the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992, and I know attendance is sagging to the point that PNC Park resembles a ghost town, but c’mon, this is ridiculous. I’ve only seen spider webs in one other major league stadium. Anyone want to guess where?

By the time the center field gate opened at 5pm, there were dozens of people waiting on line. I raced inside ahead of all of them and snapped a quick photograph of the bleachers while I still had the place to myself…


…and then handed the camera to Jona. Check out this cool shot she took of me at the start of BP:


I only snagged one ball during the 13 minutes that the Pirates were on the field. It rolled to the wall in straight-away left field, and I got it with the glove trick as Jeff Karstens was walking jeff_karstens.jpgover to pick it up. He easily could’ve snatched it, but instead he walked back to his spot in the outfield and watched with several of his teammates. Then, at the last second, as I was lifting my glove with the ball tucked firmly inside, another ball came flying out of nowhere and thumped off the padded wall below. It had missed my glove by inches and made me flinch. I looked up and Karstens was grinning.

“Nice try!” I yelled. I got the sense that he was just being playful–that even if he’d knocked the ball out of my glove he would’ve given it to me–so I added, “Thanks for letting me get it!”

Karstens responded with a subtle wave, and that was that.

Chris Dickerson (who picked up his first major league hit the night before) was the first player to take the field for the Reds. As he was back-peddling to his spot in left field, a left-handed batter sliced a line drive right at him. Dickerson half-heartedly reached for it and somehow missed it, allowing the ball to tip off the side of his glove and roll all the way to the warning track. I used the glove trick to snag this one as well, and Jona snapped a few quick pics of me in action:


In the pic on the left, I was making sure the rubber band wasn’t too tight or too loose. In the middle pic, I had just knocked the ball closer, and in the pic on the right, I had just gotten the ball to stick inside the glove.

I forgot to mention that as soon as the Reds took the field, I’d changed into my Reds outfit. Pretty convincing, eh?


I snagged three more balls during the remaining 45 minutes of BP. The first was thrown (right to me over several rows of Pirates fans) by Jerry Hairston in left-center field. The second was a fungo hit by coach Billy Hatcher, and I made a web-gem-type catch. I immediately judged that the ball was going to sail five to ten feet over my head so I climbed up on a bench, took my eye off the ball briefly as I stepped onto the bench in the next row, then turned back toward the field and spotted the ball flying toward me…and jumped and lunged and made an over-the-shoulder catch high above my head the in the tip of my glove…with the sun in my eyes. It felt great. And as for the last BP ball I snagged…I got it with the glove trick and immediately handed it to the kid on my left.

I made it to the Reds’ dugout one minute before BP ended and got my sixth ball of the day tossed by the equipment manager. Then, with nearly an hour to spare before the first pitch, Jona and I headed to the upper deck:


We wandered and I took photos from every possible angle…


…and ended up behind home plate where I took some pics for my traditional/cheap panorama:


As much as I was complaining in my previous entry about PNC Park not being all that exciting, I have to say that it really is a gorgeous stadium. When Jona and I made it back down to the field level, even the concourse behind/below the left field seats caught my eye:


Concourses aren’t the most exciting things in the world–I will acknowledge that–but having suffered for the last 20 years inside the cramped and dingy concourses of the New York City stadiums, I had to take a moment to appreciate the spaciousness and cleanliness and architectural design of this one in Pittsburgh.

Before the game started, I got autographs from Adam Rosales and Steve Pearce…


…and then got Luis Rivas to toss me a ball–my seventh of the day–after he finished playing catch along the right field foul line. When I caught that ball, the entire front row was packed with kids, but none of them had gloves. They were ALL there for autographs, so no one protested when I reached out and made the easy catch.

marked_balls_08_13_08.jpgSix of the seven balls I’d snagged at that point were either marked (with a “C” by Cincinnati) or stamped (with “practice”) on the sweet spot. As for the small four-digit numbers that appear on the balls, I wrote them as I snagged each one. They indicate how many balls I have. The ball in the middle of the lower row, for example, was the 3,588th ball of my collection, and if you’re wondering why some of the numbers are upside-down…it’s not my fault. It’s the Reds’ and Pirates’ fault. I mark every ball in the same spot: to the left of the main portion of the stamp, all the way over near the sweet spot. The Reds and Pirates were obviously not concerned with making each mark or stamp face the same way. As far as I’m concerned, THEY marked and stamped some of the balls upside-down; I merely turned them all so they’d face the same way in this photograph.

Jona and I wandered throughout the game after getting kicked out of a great foul ball spot in the third inning. (Good job, Pirates management. Not only have you assembled an unwatchable team, but you have more empty seats than fans, and you’re instructing your ushers to act like bullies. Bravo. Enjoy another 15 years in the cellar. And while we’re at it, your dollar hot dogs sucked.) We checked out the view from deep left-center field and poked our heads inside the restaurant:


We wandered back toward the field and got a good look at the open space behind the bleachers where I’d caught a BP homer the day before (I highly recommend this spot whenever a power-hitting righty comes up):


I was filmed juggling three balls late in the game (sorry for the poor quality but this is a screen shot from a low-quality video)…


…and shown on the Jumbotron for at l
east 20 seconds:


As you can see in the photo above, the Pirates had a 4-1 lead after six innings. Each team added a run after that…and that was it. There were four home runs hit in the game, and I didn’t come close to any of them. Paul Maholm worked eight solid innings to earn the win. The game lasted just two hours and 14 minutes. The attendance was a minuscule 15,787. After the final out, I got a ball tossed to me by home plate umpire Kevin Causey as he walked off the field (on the outfield end of the third base dugout) and then got another ball from an unidentifiable Pirate one minute later at the dugout. (It had to be a pitcher because he walked across the field from the bullpen. He was tall and had a beard, and I think he was right-handed. Any ideas who it might’ve been?) I gave this ball to a girl on my right, collected a few extra ticket stubs, and went out to dinner with Jona.

Goodbye, PNC Park.



? 9 balls at this game

? 317 balls in 44 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.

? 540 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 131 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

? 3,594 total balls

Several other things…

1) I’m five balls away from breaking my single-season record.

2) I’ve decided to go for 400 balls this season, and since I have about 20 more games planned, I should be able to do it.

3) It looks like I’m going to be in Philadelphia with Clif (aka “goislanders4”) on Tuesday.

4) I haven’t had ANY time lately to answer emails or comments (I’ve barely had time to blog and eat and sleep), but I’m hoping to catch up at some point this weekend…


  1. gjk2212

    idk what day im goin to philly..tuesday or thursday, not wednesday cause of chase utley figurine night. screw that. though now i may go thursday for less competition, no offense. pitt sounded fun though.

  2. braves04

    Congrats on the 9, too bad it wasn’t double digits. PNC looks like a great park, just wish they had a decent team for the fans to see.
    I’m hoping for something tonight and Monday vs. SF. The finale is at 4:30pm Monday, so kids will be at school if they have BP :)

  3. puckcollector@optonline.net

    wow ive benn wondering to what side of the of the MLB writing you label your ball (i do it on the right) for days, and searching through like 2 years of old entries to try to find a picture that would help, and i finnaly found it this morning, and now you tell us! and didint you just go to a Watch With Zack game w/ clif?

    metrodome here i come in 3 days!

  4. meikd423

    Woah, i didn’t know you could go on that bridge!! and you are gonna get your season record in just 5 more balls?????? I hope i can be good luck on tuesday.

  5. the72legend@aim.com

    Nice job on the 9 balls. I liked the spiderweb picture. PNC is one of my favorite ballparks because of how it looks.
    PS: Jeremy(the snagger who I met at Fenway Wednesday) if your reading this, could you please give me an e-mail at the72legend@aim.com. Thanks. Emma

  6. zackhample

    Definitely go to Philly on Thursday. :-)

    Yeah, I know, I’m thinking of all the balls I almost snagged. Double digits would’ve been great.

    Not County Stadium, but that’s a good guess. I *did* just have a Watch With Zack game with Clif. Good call. That was the game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium at which I caught a Kevin Millar home run (during the game) and Clif snagged a commemorative ball (also during the game) behind the dugout. Have fun at The Dome. Let me know how it goes.

    Yep, the bridge closes down for traffic before and after (not sure about during) the game so there are a zillion people constantly walking across. Looking forward to Tuesday. Even if it rains and there’s no BP, I should be able to get at least five balls…and you should be able to get a bunch as well. But let’s think happy weather-related thoughts.


    I went to Yankee Stadium today, tried to get a bleacher ticket, and failed. All sold out. Blah. I miss Pittsburgh. Now I’m home, and I’m gonna start answering comments on my previous entry…

  7. puckcollector@optonline.net

    yeah i will let you know how it goes. is the stadium a NL or AL team? and do you win anything for getting it right?

    guess 2: tiger stadium!?

  8. zackhample

    You don’t win anything except bragging rights, which you now own because you have guessed correctly.

  9. gregb123

    Speaking of Tiger Stadium…
    it’s currently about a third of the way demolished. I was there on Tuesday and I took a bunch of pictures, which I’ll share when I finish writing up the report of my Cleveland/Detroit trip in a couple days.

  10. meikd423

    I just checked the weather in Philly for next tuesday and it looks good. It says sunny with just a couple clouds. no rain, no storms. BUT, tuesday does say isolated storms……..for new york.

  11. mjblue23@insightbb.com

    The pitcher that tossed you the ball was probably Craig Hansen. He’s 6’6”, and has a beard.

  12. puckcollector@optonline.net

    michael phelps wins his 7th gold by 1 hundreth of a second! wow! not many sports moments are that spectacular and end in a finish like that. it would be a photo finish, but i dont think a photo would allow you to tell who won. and to show how fast a hundreth of a second is, blinking takes 4 tenths of a second.

  13. li7039@yahoo.com

    Zack you going to shea on thursday? I might be there, if you are there me and my bud will stay out of your way and let you work your magic.

  14. bigglovebob

    Zach, I do have a shaved noggin so that was probably me at the start of the Yanks game. I got shut out on my second night seeing the Yanks. Marte saw the big glove, smiled, and had a teammate toss him a ball to throw to me. He was obviously throwing the ball to me but he didn’t put enough on it and a guy in the row before me snagged it. Oh well. He forgot about me and I got shut out. I have a question for anyone on here that might know. My mighty Twins play the M’s today at 2:55. I am guessing that there will be no BP since this is a day game after a night game. However, they play again at 1:10 on Sunday and I am wondering what the odds are that there will be BP at the Sunday day game after the Saturday day/afternnoon game? Keep up the good work Zach, PNC looks like a sweet park.

  15. meikd423

    but yeah, the weather is gonna be good in philly for tuesday, and i got my lastings milledge shirt!

  16. Txbaseballfan

    Hey Zack, nice work! I have always like PNC, would like to go there evetnually. Well, as I said before, I went to the Rangers/Rays game 8/15. No BP though, they had some old timers game. Cool to see those guys again, but was so looking forward to trying the glove trick. One highlight of the night, Josh Hamilton came out before the game with Clay Counsel, his pitcher from the HR derby! He got 10 swings & knocked 3 into the upper right field seats. Awesome! Good luck in Philly!

  17. puckcollector@optonline.net

    In Minnesota! going to games on MOn. Tues. and mayb wed.

    and i already got the spider webb question right. its the 8th comment, and zack confirmed it when he posted the 9th comment. so stop guessing. but he said i get bragging rights so ha ha i got it!

    sorry just had to get that out of my system

  18. bigglovebob

    I will be at the Metrodome on Monday and Tuesday as well. I will be the guy with the shaved head and the big glove. Stop by and say hi. I think the dome is a tough place to snag so I will be curious to see what kind of luck you have puckcollector.

  19. 47cardsfan

    Hey Zack, This is my first time commenting. Nice job @ PNC, I hope to go there someday, Good Luck in Philly.

  20. clinton_seymour@eku.edu

    Zach, been a fan since your first book just came out and I was actually at this game and recognized you but didnt realize who you were till after the game. I am actually in the background of one of your pictures. I was also down at the dugout when you had the home plate umpire throw you a ball. And by the way, being a season ticket holder for the Buccos, ( I prefer to call them the Succos) I know all about their rude ushers.

    I was at the game last night and literally almost fought an usher behind the Mets dugout. My girlfriend and I walked down to the front row right after the game ended but before I could get by an usher stepped directly in my path and got in my face and said “Cant come down here without a ticket”, what makes this story pathetic is the fact that the game was over. I wasnt trying to sit in the front rows, I just wanted to try and get a ball thrown to me. I argued with the usher for almost 5 whole minutes, during which he repeatedly got in my face and threatened to have security come and remove me from the ballpark, even though the game was over. I took down his name and told him I was going to report him to management but he did not seem concerned.

    Lastly, I had a question for you. I know you are originally from NYC and I am making plans to come up soon to attend Shea and Yankee Stadiums for the first and last time in search of the commemorative final season ball. I know you have acquired a few and I was wondering if there are any special tricks you know at either stadium that would enable me to hopefully take home one of these balls at each stadium. Do the ball boys throw out game balls during or after the game? Are there any particular sections you like for foul balls during the game? Look forward to hearing back from you…Clint

  21. puckcollector@optonline.net

    csparks: i was being sarcastic :)

    went to the mall of america today. the place is GINORMOUS! we were there for like 5hrs, and probably only saw a fourth of the mall. also there were like hundreds of people in twins gear, yet they only draw 30,000 for the yankees.

    And speaking of the Yankees, Joe Torre got them to the playoffs EVERY year. jst a thought.

    also they have home plate from the old metropolitan stadium, and the seat on the wall where harmon killabrew hit like the 2nd farthest homer ever, and i walked the distance, and it was a LONG walk.

    and trm: what time do the gates open at the metrodome for weekdays? if you know that would be really helpful cuz the Twins dont have it listed on their website thanks.

  22. bigglovebob


    They say that the gates open 1 and 1/2 hours prior to start time for games Monday through Thursday and 2 hours before on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games. However, it has been my experience that the gate generally open at 5:30 for Monday-Thursday tilts. I usually get there at about 5:10 or so and there have been anywhere from a dozen people ahead of me to 250 or so. I think it is a tough place to snag balls. But I wish you the best of luck!

  23. zackhample

    I’d love to see those pics of Tiger Stadium. Hurry.


    Cool. Thanks for checking.

    Actually, I think it might’ve been Jason Davis. I saw him on TV two nights ago, pitching against the Mets, and he looked like the guy who’d tossed it to me. Still not sure though.

    Phelps is sick. But I’m pretty sure I could out-snag him. :-)
    Have fun in Minnesota. Can’t wait to hear about it.

    Sorry I’m gonna miss you.

    I think I might be there. Not sure, but I’m leaning toward going. It’ll depend on the weather, of course. I refuse to go if there’s no BP.

    Aha, so that WAS you. Cool. My guess is that there will be BP on Sunday, although it might be a limited BP…possibly starting late without EVERY player participating. Root for a low-scoring game on Saturday. Then the managers might make all their players hit the next day when you’re there.

    Thank you. Sorry about the Old Timers day getting in the way of BP. Hamilton is awesome, plain-n-simple.

    Thanks. I think I should reach that mini-milestone in Philly next week.

    I hope you make it to Pittsburgh and come back with some good stories.

    Welcome to the comments section, and thanks for the congrats and good luck wishes.

    Aww, man, it would’ve been nice if you’d come over and said “hey.” But thanks for saying “hey” here. I guess that’s almost as good. I like the nickname “Succos.” Sort of like the Mets being the “Mess” back in the early/mid-90s. That’s really lame about the usher at PNC giving you a hard time after the game, but it’s the same way at Yankee Stadium. You can’t get down to the dugout EVER, even five minutes after the final out…unless you have a ticket for that section, of course. I think you should report the usher to management, but perhaps it would be better to just file a general complaint. After all, it’s probably management that instructs the ushers to act strict. As for Shea and Yankee Stadium, I suggest reading all my old blog entries (if you haven’t already) to get ideas of where to go, but basically, at Shea, you can get an umpire ball after the game right behind the plate, and you can also get lots of third-out balls at the dugouts, especially the 3rd base dugout. Delgado ALWAYS tosses to them to little kids, so it’s better to work the visiting teams, and it’s not that hard to get down to those seats. Just don’t be dumb and try to walk down right in front of an usher. Wait ’til a fly ball is in mid-air and THEN make your move while everyone is staring at it. Sections 4 and 5 in the Loge are good for foul balls during games. Box 179 Row A is a good spot to get a ball thrown to you during the Mets’ portion of BP. As for Yankee Stadium, the umps exit the field on the outfield end of the first base dugout, but it’s really tough to get down there. You have to ask people for their ticket stubs on their way out of the game when there’s like an inning or two to spare. During BP in the Bronx, you can try to grab the corner spot out past the foul pole in RF, all the way over as close to the bleachers as you can get. It’s usually good for a ball or two. Yankee Stadium is really hard. The bleachers are great for BP if you can get in (and the Yankees ARE using the commemorative balls during BP, whereas the Mets aren’t exclusively using them). You need a bleacher ticket for that, though, and they’re all pretty much selling for $100-plus at this point. Hope that helps.

  24. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    Went to the Padres vs. Phillies tonight. Those crazy softball guys were there and “performed” after BP. I actually caught one down in row 2 where I sit in LF. They were bombing way over my seating area into the upper deck. This one guy GOT UNDER ONE and it went straight up. It amazingly carried right to me and I caught it. Got a real nice ovation from the masses. It was a brand new ball too. So, should I count this ball in my snagging collection? Hmmm. My friend says it’s so big it should count for two balls. Ha ha. Going to Anaheim on Aug 28 for Texas vs. Angels. Looking to catch a Josh Hamilton BP homer.


    Puck Collector….

    I hope you’re staying at the Minneapolis Hilton or one of the other Hilton brands!!

  25. yankees42294

    hey I’m going to 2 Baltimore vs. yankee games next weeekend and 1 Nationals game as well. anyone got any tips for both stadiums like where to go for BP and for foul balls. Also hows are the ushers at Camden Yards and Nationals Park, like can i get down to the dugouts without a ticket?

  26. meikd423

    the first thing to do at nationals park would be to run to straight away left and look in the flowers. then, run all the way to the foul pole and look in this little gap next to it where the flower bed ends (only do this if you have a cup trick). because every time ive been to nationals park, there is always a ball down there. then, just run back to the concourse and go to the red porch seats and hang there for homeruns and players until 5;40 when the right field section opens. then run behind the red porch and just go there.

    as for the dugouts, its the easiest place that ive ever been to to sneak down. just wait and do it between innings or when the guard is somehow distracted.

  27. deleted


    I don’t know why you shouldn’t count it. Just list your collection as

    X # of baseballs
    1 Softball.

  28. gjk2212

    ok, im officially going to philly thursday..also, ill be at nationals park the 26th against the dodgers and camden yards the 27th vs the white sox..

  29. zackhample


    I don’t think you should count it in your grand total. Maybe make a separate category? I didn’t count the cricket ball that I snagged at PETCO two years ago.

    My advice to you would be to read all the old blog entries I’ve written about those ballparks. At Nationals Park, it’s easy to get down to the dugouts from the concourses after a couple innings because the ushers stop checking tickets. At Camden, it’s always pretty easy, but there’s one really strict/rude usher behind the dugout on the 1st base side.

    Well then, it’s officially ON. I’ll be at Camden on the 27th as well. :-)

  30. gjk2212

    yeah im getting a season ticket (hopefully, but it looks pretty good) so well be maybe the only ones in left field lol

    i must get nationals park dugout access, i dont yet have a commemorative ball. i got 8, 5, and 5 the 3 times i saw them at shea, ill see them in philly this week, and i still dont have one. so many training balllllllllllllllllls. hoping for one thursday, or during bp in dc, so i dont hafta go crazy. though im sure ill see them at shea in september..

  31. gregb123

    Alright, here?s the report about my trip to Cleveland and Detroit.

    Last Monday, my dad and I drove 7 hours to Cleveland for the first of four night games at Jacobs Field (which I will refuse to call by its stupid corporate name, Progressive Field) and Comerica Park in Detroit.

    Here was the schedule:
    Monday (Aug. 11th) in Cleveland vs. Baltimore
    Tuesday in Detroit vs. Toronto
    Wednesday in Detroit vs. Toronto
    Friday in Cleveland vs. Baltimore

    We arrived in Cleveland at about 2:30pm, with the right field gate set to open at 4:30pm. I wandered for over an hour, taking pictures and observing the nuances of Jacobs Field. I noticed that the outside of the ballpark looks very similar to that of PETCO Park in San Diego.

    Check out some pics I took from outside:

    Jacobs Field is one of those ballparks that opens in parts. The right field gate opens to the public at 4:30 (for a 7:05pm), but you?re trapped in the RF seats until 6:00. (Here?s what that part of the ballpark looks like: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03517.jpg ) Monday just happened to be Jhonny Peralta mini-bobblehead day, so hundreds of people showed up early to claim their trinket, and by 5:00 the seats were packed.

    I managed to snag only three balls during all of BP, and none of them were particularly exciting. Ten minutes after the gates opened, Indians reliever Masa Kobayashi (who?s one of the nicest ball-throwers I?ve ever seen) wandered into the right field bullpen. I had noticed a ball tucked under a chair in the front of the ?pen a few minutes earlier, so I pointed it out and he flipped it to me.

    A while later, a ball ended up in the back of the center field bullpen, and I knew it would be easy cup trick prey. But a cop and a security supervisor were stationed where I would need to stand to get the ball, so I had to convince them to step aside and allow me to do it. I offered to give it to a kid afterwards, and they were fine with it. I couldn?t believe it. Thirty seconds later, I thanked them before finding a kid two sections over.

    Right before 6:00, when the siren sounded to indicate that the rest of the ballpark was open, I sprinted over to the RF foul line, because an Orioles hitter had laced a ball into the corner and the players just left it there. I reeled it up in ten seconds. Then I headed over to the high seats behind left field (see this pic: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03527.jpg ) and immediately regretted it. The section is a nearly impossible place to snag because not only is it steep, but the front part of the section is extremely segmented. In other words, if you play deep, you have a very limited vertical range, and if you stay in the front row, you have almost no horizontal range. There were several balls hit up there, but I got nothing. To make things worse, the Orioles ended BP at about 6:10. But the day got better.

    During the game, my dad and I sat along the staircase one section over from the outfield end of the Orioles (first base) dugout. This was the view: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03562.jpg . It seemed like a decent foul ball spot, and the best part was that since the Indians suck, the seats were pretty empty. With two outs, I could go through an empty row of seats into a good third-out ball position.

    The fourth inning ended with a ground ball to Kevin Millar, who tossed to pitcher Dennis Sarfate covering the first base bag. On his way in, Sarfate tossed the ball generically over the dugout with his head down. The ball was heading to my right, but I knew that if I dove for it, I would land in the first row of people. So instead, I jumped straight up and reached as far as I could with my glove hand to make the catch.

    In the eighth inning, I was still sitting in the decent foul ball spot. An Orioles righty sliced a foul ball in my direction. It was going to land on the staircase, but about ten rows back from my ?seat?. I bolted up several stairs, turned my back to the field and hoped for a good bounce. The ball landed and somehow shot straight back at me. I stuck out my glove and made an easy catch (sweet!), then immediately forgot who hit it. I feel so stupid, but whatever.

    And that was it for Day 1. Five balls. Not terrible, but definitely not great either.

    The next morning, my dad and I made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Detroit and checked out old Tiger Stadium before heading to Comerica. Tiger Stadium is currently being demolished, piece by piece, and is about a third of the way down. I set up a slideshow here:

    We drove the one mile distance from Tiger Stadium to Comerica. Here?s some pics of the outside:

    Unlike Jacobs Field, Comerica Park?s gates all open at the same time (two hours before first pitch). What?s nice about that is that everybody isn?t trapped in one area during BP, so it?s much easier to move around. Anyway, I started a line at the right field gate at about 4:15pm. When the gates opened at 5:00, I sprinted to straightaway RF and immediately got Bobby Seay (whose last name is pronounced like the letter ?C?) to toss me a (nasty training) ball.

    I had heard that Comerica Park security was not fond of ball-retrieving devices, so I wasn?t planning on going for cup trick balls that I knew would take a significant amount of time to get. But ten minutes in, a ball rolled right up against the RF wall. It wasn?t going to take more than fifteen seconds, so I went for it. My dad kept watch and later told me that none of the on-field guards even turned around. That meant I could do it at least one more time and just play the ?Oh, I?m from out of town? card if I got caught. Well, moments later a ball rolled up against the right-center wall. I could see it was a training ball, so I promised a little girl next to me that I?d give it to her. As I was pulling the ball up, an usher type guy who had been standing about ten rows behind me the whole time tapped me on the shoulder and nicely told me to stop. While continuing to pull up the ball, I said I was getting it for the girl and he basically backed off. After I handed it to the girl?s mother, the guy told me to keep the device in my bag for the rest of the day. And I did. But just because he was nice about it, unlike some guards who make vague threats about confiscation or ejection.

    The next fifteen minutes were dead in RF, but when the Blue Jays pitchers came out to throw at about 5:30, I noticed a ball was sitting up against the outside of the tarp along the RF line. I calmly ran over, lunged on to the tarp to peer over, and reached down to pick it up. (All four balls I got during Tigers BP were training, and I gave away all of them except the first.)

    The Blue Jays were stingy to almost everybody, and I got nothing during their portion of BP. But right before the game, outfielder Adam Lind came out to throw in shallow right and after finishing, tossed me the ball from about 80 feet away.

    I stupidly played the dugouts for the entire first game there (I?ll explain why it was a stupid decision later), and I got nothing there, but after the game, home plate ump Gary Cederstrom tossed me my sixth and final ball of the night.

    The second game at Comerica was much more exciting. I spent the entire early afternoon worrying about the rain in the forecast. It was overcast all day. It had rained at the hotel shortly after noon. The skies were threatening. But at about 4:30, I checked out the field from the sidewalk behind right-center field outside the ballpark (where you can see the infield if you climb up the fence a little: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03708.jpg ), and the Tigers were hitting! The tarp was nowhere in sight.

    As I sprinted into the right field seats when the gates opened, a BP home run landed in the seats one section over. I went over and picked it up, then got Bobby Seay to throw me another ball several minutes later. The Tigers hit until 4:45, then the grounds crew started taking down the BP nets and the cage. The pitchers in the outfield ran off the field. It wasn?t raining. Five minutes later, the tarp was placed on the field. It still wasn?t raining. The Blue Jays came out to throw in right field. I got three balls tossed to me in a five minute span: one from a short guy with a catcher?s mitt who none of the actual Blue Jays fans could identify, another from Joe Inglett, and the last from a lefty position player (possibly Adam Lind again).

    The tarp was left on the field until 6:15pm. (It never rained a drop. Stupid grounds crew.) So I wandered the ballpark and took a bunch of pics:

    Right before the game, David Eckstein tossed me his warm-up ball after throwing in shallow RF.

    Anyway, remember how I mentioned it was stupid that I played the dugouts the night before. Well, this is why: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03945.jpg . It?s a glorious aisle that runs through the seats, about 35 rows back from the field. The best part about it is that it is officially a standing room section, so the ushers don?t bother you for standing there.
    During this second game at Comerica, there were at least a dozen foul balls that landed within two rows of the aisle, and I caught one of them. Top of the fourth. Two outs. Marco Scutaro vs. Kenny Rogers. 1-0 count. Lazy liner straight back. I ranged one section over in the aisle as the ball hit the base of the press box behind me and shot back toward the field. I was all over it. My second foul ball in two nights. Yay. (I quickly jotted down the details so I wouldn?t forget again.)

    So it was back to Cleveland on Thursday. Luckily, there was no stupid promotion to draw fans to the game early. And it showed. BP was so much emptier than on Monday.

    The RF gate opened five minutes early(!!) at 4:25, and I quickly got Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to throw me a ball he caught off the bat of an Indians hitter. A while later, a ball rolled to the wall and Fausto Carmona retrieved it, then underhanded it to me.

    The Orioles came out at 5:30 or so, and Dennis Sarfate tossed me a ball that rolled to the track near the RF corner. Later in Orioles BP, a home run landed in the RF bullpen, and rolled all the way to the back. It took about five minutes to knock the ball closer with my cup trick, but I eventually got it.

    The rest of the ballpark opened at about 5:45, and I foolishly tried LF again. For most of the next twenty minutes, I stayed deep. Several times, I would run towards a ball hit near me, not get it, and then see a ball land right where I was standing ten seconds earlier. This happened so many times that I wanted to jump off the high wall. At one point, I was in the front row behind a group of people when Melvin Mora hit a homer that I judged perfectly, got right behind, reached out as far as I could to make the catch ? and then got robbed by some guy in front of me, standing up against the wall. Then the Orioles ended BP early at about 6:05 and I only had four balls. It was SO frustrating.

    I couldn?t get anything during pre-game throwing. During the game, I stood in the main aisle behind home plate and played foul balls for the first two outs of every half inning, then went to the dugout for the third out. I did this for the first four innings and got nothing. I was getting more and more frustrated, so I wandered. Jacobs Field has a monument park-type exhibit in center field called ?Heritage Park?. Here?s what the entrance looks like: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03460.jpg . It?s accessible to the fans at all times, so I decided to check it out. It turns out that it has two levels: the top level is shown in the above photo, and the lower level is tucked right behind the line of skinny trees in this picture: http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk33/gbarasch/DSC03571.jpg . The bottom level is separated from those trees only by a thin metal fence, but the fence doesn?t go all the way down to the ground, so it?s possible to touch the soil/mulch in which those trees are buried. Long story short, there was a ball under the trees, presumably from BP. I figured there might be some balls in there after BP, but I?d forgotten to check it out. The only reason I saw it is because I was looking for balls there; you couldn?t see it accidentally, and that?s probably why it was still there. It was tucked up against the cement half-wall that holds up the metal fence. I know this is probably not making sense, but I don?t know how else to describe it. If anybody goes to Jacobs Field, check it out. Go to center field, walk into Heritage Park, take the staircase down to the lower level and go as close to the field as you can, then look into the trees. You?ll see what I mean.

    I got nothing for the rest of the game, but after it ended, I got home plate ump Marvin Hudson to hand me my sixth and final ball of the day.

    By the way, my dad set a personal record by snagging six balls himself at this game, so that?s pretty cool. (He caught seven balls total over the four games.)

    Overall, it was a fun trip even though my numbers were pretty average. I like both ballparks a lot, and of the two, I?d say Comerica is better for snagging but Jacobs is nicer for watching baseball. Comerica easily has one of the nicest exteriors in baseball, and I?d recommend checking it out sometime.

    Here?s some stats:
    – 24 balls in 4 games on this trip
    – 13 balls at Comerica
    – 11 balls at Jacobs
    – 2 foul balls
    – 248 balls in 37 games this season
    – 527 lifetime balls
    – 102 consecutive games with at least one ball

    And finally, here?s a pic of the 20 balls I kept:

    Does anybody want to do a word count on this comment?

  32. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Leigh: i didnt count the softballin my collection. was it a distance ball made by Miken?
    and no we are not staying at a hilton.

    Greg, i would do a word count but the hotel co mputer doesnt have word. also i think the guy w/ the catchers mitt was Alex Androupolis (sp) he tossed zack a ball earlier in the year. you can find the entry.

    also on the 1st foul ball, look through the game archives on MLB.com you can fast forward to the 4th and watch the inning.

    if you watched the video when i was on TV, just follow the same steps just w/ a different game.

  33. josephfaraguna@yahoo.com

    congrats greg, on the trip and for having the longest comment yet. zack – can’t wait till next monday, probably my last game, to finally cross paths.

  34. csparks@zoominternet.net

    Greg, I know what you are talking about. I will check it out at heritage park. And where do the umpires exit? I always forget to look! Thanks

  35. meikd423

    that pic that you took from the last row of the upper deck from comerica was pretty much the exact view i had for the 2005 homerun derby. it was cool seeing that and also, the eight picture down in the list of comerica pics was the section that i sat in for the 2005 all star game. it brings back memories………..kinda.

  36. padreleigh

    Hey Zacker…

    Pat Burrell hit a homer tonight at PETCO that went right over my head. It was just too deep to make a play on. The lineup was PERFECT, but it was too high. I was hoping for the rebound, but no can do. Wish I was taller. Looking forward to your next post.


  37. braves04

    Great post, Greg. 2,573 is the word count from Microsoft Word lol. Did you happen to visit Hockeytown Cafe? We ate there before a Thrashers/Red Wings game in January. Lots of cool Detroit sports memorabilia.
    Interesting how Progressive Field and PETCO Park were designed with 2 different themes, yet they look similar.

  38. tigerssss

    you like doo wop, eh?
    i happened to be in nyc recently, and i noticed that there’s a group that performs out in front of the metropolitan museum of art. i saw them there yesterday (sunday), and they were quite good. i dont know what their playing schedule is or anything, but knowing that you like doo wop and live in new york, i just thought i’d bring that to your attention.

  39. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    Padreleigh is that bag strap choking you in the pic?i think i saw you on ESPN sun nite game,you were eating nachos.take it easy kookoo.you see vasgersian on the usa network in china? When is baseball on olympics on tv?I m goin to a double header thursday.Col at La dodger1210 start then 5pm Bp at ana vs Minn /45 min drive /

  40. 333greystreet

    The player who threw you the ball was Tyler Yates. I was right behind you in 24 L at the end of the game. One of the games you and my friend were both trying to catch a HR ball and neither of you caught it. I actually happened across this blog after you were at PNC Park. Since then, I tried the glove trick 3 times, and got three balls, only to have one of the confiscated by a power-hungry supervisor. I even stole your idea of wearing road shirts to get balls. I got a Shea ball today from Guy Conti just for wearing a Mets shirt that I got at Champs for $4. I hope you come back to PNC Park soon. There are about 7 regular ball hawks that come to every game. The all time record between us 7 is 110 balls in one season. The guy who had 110 also had the single game record of 8, which you broke. My all time high was 7 back on June 21st. I currently have 94, and hope to break that record. This is my first full season of ballhawking, and I am hoping some of the tips I’ve read in your blog can help my game.

    Do you have any tips on the Cubs or Brewers? They are coming up next homestand.

  41. braves04

    Zack, you could’ve broken your single game record at Turner Field today lol.
    I snagged 2 at the Giants/Braves finale. I was concerned there would be no BP for a getaway day, but all the kids were still in school when gates opened at 2pm. I have never seen BP so dead. Homers weren’t flying out, but players were generous. Unfortunately, they were generous to everyone else and completely ignored my requests. Eddie Perez started tossing a ball with various fans and I was lucky enough to take part.
    The two I got were homers from the Giants, though their BP jerseys are impossible to read. Both were to my right and I had no competition. They landed in similar spots and rolled right down the steps into my glove. Better than a shutout, but I was really disappointed on such a promising day. Paid crowd was 18,113, but no more than 12,000 showed up.

  42. zackhample

    No Nats ball yet for you? Damn. Get on it, Son. You only got six weeks to go.

    Amazing. I read every word and looked at every photograph. Thanks for entertaining me for half an hour, and congrats on all the balls.

    I’m looking forward, too.

    How tall would you have had to be to make the catch on Burrell’s blast? Nice pic. Don’t listen to T.C.

    I like doo-wop, but probably not enough to leave my house just to hear some. But that does sound cool. The Met isn’t too far from where I live…

    Thanks, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Yates. I know what he looks like, and I think I saw him walking in from the bullpen a couple minutes after I got that ball at the dugout. Congrats on the glove trick success, but I’m sorry about the run-in with security. I enjoyed hearing about the stats and records of the PNC ballhawks. I’m sorry I didn’t know who you guys were when I was there. Tips for the Cubs and Brewers? I really don’t have any. I haven’t seen either of those teams much at all over the last few years. Sorry. I try to avoid the Cubs because they have such a huge fan base.

    Gah! Don’t tell me things like that. It just makes me sad to be stuck here in NYC.

  43. gregb123

    puck — I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Andreopoulis. I think Andreopoulis has a mustache. Can anybody confirm that? And I tried that video idea to figure out the foul ball thing, but it won’t let me view it without a subscription to mlb.tv.

    csparks — It’s good to hear somebody who understood what I was talking about. And at Jacobs Field, the umpires leave the field directly behind home plate through a little tunnel.

    goislanders — Cool. Was that before or after Comerica was reconfigured?

    Leigh — Thanks. And I think I saw you on the Burrell homer. It was right to your staircase. Too bad your seat isn’t a little bit crappier or that ball would’ve been all yours.

    lsthrasher04 — I saw the Hockeytown Cafe, but didn’t go inside. Seemed like a cool place though.

  44. meikd423

    yeah the same thing just happened with me. i don’t even know where the name came from,

  45. deleted


    I can give you a list on some of the nice players. If you bring a Cubs hat, these people are the people to ask for balls.

    Daryle Ward
    Jason Marquis
    Mike Fontenot
    Sean Marshall
    Ryan Theriot
    Ryan Dempster
    Rich Harden

    There’s probably more, but that should be a good starter list.
    Zack’s right, they draw very big crowds, even on the road, so it will be tough no matter what.

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